Community engagement works towards community change. But, what exactly is that change? What does it look like? Who does it affect? How do you get there?
For as many people as you ask, that many answers you will receive. The same goes for churches. Each has its specific missional focus and flavor. One thing about Midwestern living is the number of churches, which means that (when done well) different churches can utilize the skills, talents, and passions in its congregation to support different aspects of social and communal life. In a city where a single block may house four different churches, one may have a food pantry, another a monthly community meal and baby pantry, another an afterschool program, and yet another provides work in exchange for gift cards or bill pay.
Four different churches. Four different programs.
They can work in silo. Or, they can work together to more effectively serve the community in which they reside.
That is community engagement with churches. It is all about building relationship and working together with other churches and organizations, and through those relationships transforming the world.
Community engagement is not simply a series of steps to carry out. I prefer to approach community work as a set of fundamental values, that, however you define the intended outcomes and the activities to reach them, guide the work. They include:
Ruth M. Smith
Community arts educator and researcher. Drinking coffee. Home educating. Making art. Listening intentionally.